Our offices celebrated two different bank holidays on Monday, 28 May 2012. Enjoy learning about Pentecost, celebrated by France and Madagascar, and Memorial Day, celebrated by the United States.

Pentecost in France

by Samuel, Toulouse Office

Pentecost is a Christian feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, inspired by the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai in the calendar of Ancient Israel (called Shavuot). It means “the fiftieth day” in Ancient Greek since it always takes place 50 days after Easter on a Sunday.

Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, icon in the Greek Orthodox tradition

In France, the entire week following Pentecost Sunday used to be a public holiday before the Revolution in 1789. But in 1801 the holiday was reduced to the following Monday only.

Between 2004 and 2007, the government turned it into a “Solidarity Day for the Elderly.” People went to work as usual on Pentecost Monday but their salaries were given to the State and used to finance actions in favour of elderly people. The initiative took place after the 2003 heat wave, which had caused the death of next to 15,000 people.

One of the most famous pieces of French composer Olivier Messiaen is a celebration of Pentecost called Messe de la Pentecôte (Pentecost Mass).

Olivier Messiaen

And now for a few sayings about Pentecost:

–                          À la Pentecôte, fraises rouges ou le laboureur s’étonne (On the Pentecost, strawberries are red or the plowman is surprised).

–                          C’est dit-on à la Pentecôte, que qui trop mange, cher lui coûte (They say that it is on the Pentecost that he who eats too much, pays for it a lot).


Memorial Day in the United States

by Alicia D., Project Coordinator, Santa Clara Office

Memorial Day is a US holiday celebrated annually on the last Monday of May in honor of those who have served and are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. While the day of remembrance originally commenced following the Civil War and was known as Decoration Day for soldiers, in the 20th century it has also developed into a day to remember loved ones.

Arlington Memorial Cemetary on Memorial Day

Arlington Memorial Cemetery on Memorial Day

It is common on this day to visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who served in the armed forces. Volunteers and family members place flags on the graves of those who served.

Memorial Day has also developed into the unofficial start of summer. In addition to visiting cemeteries in remembrance of loved ones, families and friends gather to celebrate and enjoy spending time together. Often there will be an outdoor barbeque and festivities, such as parades and fireworks.

The most common saying for Memorial Day:

–                           “Thank you” to a veteran